To say that general manager Chris Ballard was disappointed in his team would be an understatement. Fresh off his Indianapolis Colts missing the postseason, thanks to an unfathomable upset loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ballard was apparently in the mood to air some grievances.
The postseason “autopsy” is never easy for a team that didn’t make the playoffs. It has to be unbearable for a team that just had to win one game to get in but instead suffered an embarrassing loss.
Losing to Jacksonville was inexcusable for the Indianapolis Colts
In a vacuum, the Colts losing to the then-two-win Jaguars wasn’t a huge surprise. After all, Indy has for some reason, struggled against the Jaguars while playing on the road. Heading into the contest, the Colts had dropped five-straight games against the Jaguars while playing in Jacksonville. It would have been six-straight if the Colts’ loss to the Jaguars in London in 2016 counted.
Either way, that streak continued in Week 18, as the Colts fell to the lowly Jaguars, 26-11.
Again, in a bubble, the loss is not all that surprising. Bad teams beat good teams all the time in the NFL. That’s doubly true for divisional rivals. What made the loss so egregious for the Colts was the context of the game, though. It was what was on the line: a trip to the playoffs. Their own destiny was in their hands. They just had to win, and they’d be in.
They collapsed in epic fashion.
They allowed the Jaguars to put up 26 points on them. To that point in the season, the most the Jags had scored was 23. They averaged just 14 points per game heading into Week 18.
Not only did Indianapolis collapse on defense, but the offense was putrid as well. Carson Wentz was just 17-of-29 passing for 185 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He was sacked six times.
The offensive line, as a whole, had a terrible game, as highlighted by the sacks Wentz took. It was not only that, though. All-world running back Jonathan Taylor was only able to rush for 77 yards on 15 carries.
The Colts lost the time-of-possession battle, 33:18 to 26:41
“Sometimes you get your a** beat,’’ Ballard said in his end-of-season press conference, according to FOX59 in Indianapolis. “We got our a** beat. I wish I had (the answer). I don’t have that. I don’t have it. We got our a** beat.’’
Colts GM Chris Ballard held nothing back
Ballard was clearly not in a festive mood as he was peppered with questions about his team’s late-season collapse. Not only did the Colts lose to Jacksonville, but they lost the week before to the Las Vegas Raiders, 23-20, at home. Finishing the season at 9-8, those two games were the difference between a postmortem press conference and the playoffs.
The loss to the Jaguars was particularly frustrating, though. The Raiders are at least a playoff-worthy team. The Jags fired their head coach, Urban Meyer, midway through the season, and fans were at the game wearing clown attire in order to try to convince owner Shad Khan to fire general manager Trent Baalke.
The Colts lost to a literal clown show in Week 18. That’s why they didn’t make the playoffs.
“I’m pissed. I’m not happy,’’ Ballard said. “I can’t sleep at night thinking about it.’’
“Look, we embarrassed ourselves,’’ he went on to say. “Embarrassed our owner, embarrassed our city.”
How do the Colts pick up the pieces moving forward?
If there is any silver lining for Ballard, it’s that he does have some really solid pieces to work with heading into the future.
First of all, is Taylor, who is the best running back in the league not named Derrick Henry. It’s tough to pin all your hopes on a running back because they do tend to fall off a cliff once their legs run out, but it’s safe to say the star running back will be a big part of the future in Indianapolis. In just his second season as a pro, he finished with 332 rushes for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. He led the league in all three categories for a running back, winning the proverbial Triple Crown.
Second-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr. also had a breakout season with 88 catches for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns. He was one of only 26 receivers league-wide to finish with over 1,000 yards.
Darius Leonard is the cornerstone on defense, and the Colts have a head-man in charge who Ballard expressed a ton of confidence in.
“We are lucky to have him, I promise you,” he said of head coach Frank Reich.
The one area where the Colts do have some questions marks is quarterback, and that may be the biggest piece the franchise will have to pick up this offseason. Right now, it appears to be broken.
Is Wentz the long-term answer at quarterback?
Ballard couldn’t commit to him as the starter looking ahead to the 2022 season, but whatever the Colts do, the GM wants it to be the real deal. He’s not looking for any short-term solutions.
“I’d like to quit Band-Adeing it,’’ Ballard said. “I’d like for Carson to be the long-term answer, or find somebody that’s going to be here for the next 10-to-12 years.”